Costa Rica has three bills in the legislative hopper that would prohibit discrimination. These bills come despite a long history of legislation and international agreements that would seem to do the same thing.
The bills are broadly drafted and would seem to include prohibitions against bias against North American expats and the elderly in seeking employment and other activities.
The first is No. 18.740 that was presented April 8, 2013, by then-lawmaker José Joaquín Porras Contreras.
The bill prohibits discrimination based in employment and pay and also prohibited pregnancy tests for potential employees as well as HIV tests. The bill established criminal penalties.
No. 19062 was presented March 25, 2014, by then-lawmaker José María Villalta Florez-Estrada. The measure seeks to modify article 380 in the criminal code that covers racial discrimination.
The current law covers discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion, marriage status, politics, social origin or economic situation.
The bill would add ethnicity, culture, union membership, philosophies, language, national origin, sexual identity or orientation, present or future health, disabilities and any other physical or genetic characteristics. The article also is a criminal law with penalties of from one to three years.
The third measure, No. 19.288, basically is about what are called Afrocostarricense and members of native groups. The bill would create affirmative action programs and also a national commission against racial discrimination and a special 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week section of the Defensoría de los Habitantes to handle racial complaints.
The measures would increase the penalties in the penal code for discrimination by a year of prison time and impose higher penalties if the discrimination is committed by public officials.
The bill has the support of nine current lawmakers, including Epsy Campbell Barr, Maureen Clarke Clarke and Ottón Solís Fallas
The bill also seems to give preference in public bidding to companies with black or native employees and it also provides certain tax breaks.
All the bills are in the Comisión Especial de Derechos Humanos, which is holding hearings on them. Among those testifying last week was defensora de los habitantes, Montserrat Solano Carboni.